Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: William Kitcher

John was just a baby when his parents realized that there was something strange about him. John’s mother tried to breastfeed him, but quickly gave it up when she found she couldn’t produce enough milk to keep John happy and switched to the bottle, which displeased young John. At about this time, many of John’s baby spoons started to disappear. When his parents discovered the reason for the vanishing cutlery, John took the brunt of their hostilities and became a bitter little boy.

Unfortunately, the young John was prone to colds and removed the lint from his clothing every time he sniffled. He learned very early on in life to control his breathing, to make sure that his inhalations and exhalations weren’t too brisk. When he slept, many people remarked that he looked as if he was dead because they never saw his chest move. At a very early age, John knew what he had to do to survive.

When John was three, his parents were happy to be able to send him off to a daycare centre. John didn’t like this obvious snub by his parents, and spent his first few weeks there sulking in a corner, ignoring all attempts by the staff to engage him in play with the other children. Finally, because of boredom, John joined the activities and delighted his playmates by drinking all of the paint. After the hospital staff had pumped out his stomach, John smiled.

When John was in junior high school, he earned lunch money by wagering that he could quaff a milkshake faster than anyone. For a time, John became the richest and most popular boy in school. He made a lot of money and friends by disposing of each successive set of exams.

When marijuana appeared in the hallways of the school, John was as enthusiastic as anyone, but his schoolmates soon ostracized him because he would receive a lighted joint, inhale, and then not have anything to pass on.

On reaching the age of majority, he used his extraordinary ability in public houses. He ran into problems, however, because his talent for sucking in far exceeded his capability for holding alcohol. After he had won six or seven bets by guzzling beers against long-time drinkers, he had to retire for the entire evening. This method of earning a wage was not satisfying to John.

John gave up drinking and turned his talents to bigger, better, and more important exhibitions of his prowess. The fame of his lungs spread across the continent. He appeared on several syndicated talk shows, entertained at county fairs, had a brunch with the Prime Minister, and narrowly lost to a Third World dictator for Time’s “Person Of The Year.”

But, in the entertainment industry, fame is short and sweet. John realized too late that he had over-exposed himself and his unique gifts. No one wanted to see him perform anymore. A few short weeks after the pinnacle of his success, John was just another dirty derelict, searching the gutters for change.

The public had suddenly become “sophisticated”, and saw no use for John and his ability. They scorned him at every opportunity, forgetting the momentary joy he had brought into their mundane lives. He feared to venture out in the streets because he knew he would be laughed at. Mostly, he stayed to himself in his room in a shabby boarding house, and practiced his art on the occasional cockroach that wandered in.

In a letter to the editor of a major daily newspaper, a rodeo owner jokingly offered him a job cleaning out the horses’ stalls. John, his sense of humour stretched to the limited, tracked him down, and sucked him in.

And then, when he was very old, he realized that he had no reason to feel badly about his innate talent. He knew that society was at fault here, and that he shouldn’t be held to blame. Plucking up his courage, he went out into the street. Because he had been in seclusion for such a long time, very few even noticed him shuffling along, but some of the older people recognized him from his halcyon days, and quickly, the word spread among the pedestrians that John was, once again, out. A couple of obnoxious children circled around John, pulling at his coat-tails, pointing their fingers at him, and snickering. John tried to shoo them away, but they persisted. He was about to put an end to their meagre existences when he looked up, and realized that the entire crowd on the street was looking at him and giggling.

His face tight with anger and disgust, John raised his face to the heavens, drew in his breath, and when he let it out, the universe began again.


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